Did you know that October is Non-GMO Month? In 2010, the Non-GMO Project created Non-GMO Month as a platform for raising awareness on GMO issues. The Non-GMO Project offers North America's only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO food and products. This non-profit organization believes that everyone deserves an informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified organisms, and plays an important role in coordinating the movement. One of the ways they do this is by dedicating this month to raising awareness of this important issue.
Washington State Fights for GMO Labeling
Here in the Pacific Northwest, our neighbors to the north are fighting for the right to have genetically engineered foods labeled with Washington Initiative Measure No. 522. The initiative would require genetically engineered foods, or foods with genetically engineered ingredients, to be labeled, giving shoppers more control over their shopping decisions. A "yes" vote on 522 allows Washington shoppers to make informed decisions when buying food for themselves and their families.
"We support Initiative 522 because we support transparency and our customers' right to know what's in their food." - Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry's founder
Currently, there are more than 60 countries around the world that require labels for food or ingredients that have been genetically modified. The United States does not require labeling at this time, causing individual states to take this issue on. A similar initiative failed last year in California, with large chemical and pesticide companies spending over $45 million dollars to narrowly defeat the measure.
With still another month to go before Washington voters get a say, opponants of 522 are shattering state records for funds raised in opposing a state-wide ballot measure. According to an article in the Seattle Times, the No on 522 Committee's funding totals had surged to $17.2 million, a number which eclipsed the $4.8 million raised by the Yes on 522 supporters.
The biggest contributer to the opposition came in the form of a $7 million contribution from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The GMA is a Washington, D.C. based lobbying group for the food industry who represents right-to-know opponants such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, General Mills, Kraft, and more.
"The GMA claims to be the voice for more than 300 food and beverage companies that depend on customer trust and loyalty to stay in business," said the President of the Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook. "Yet GMA is spending millions on behalf of those companies to deny consumers the right to know more information about the food they eat and feed to their families...
... If the major companies that GMA represents claim they have nothing to hide in the food they sell, then why is GMA spending millions of dollars in this campaign?" - Ken Cook, EWG President
Other large contributers to the opposition include biochemical companies Monsanto and Dupont Pioneer, with a combined contribution amount of over $ 8 million.
One of the arguments used by the opposition to 522 is that the initiative will result in higher food costs. According to Arran Stephens, president and founder of Nature’s Path: “We, as with most manufacturers, are continually updating our packaging. It is a regular cost of doing business – a small one at that – and is already built into our cost structure. Claims that labeling GMOs would significantly increase the price of food for consumers just aren’t true. Companies would certainly be updating their packaging for other reasons within the 18 months they will be given to comply with the new law, and could simply make the additional GMO labeling changes at the same time.”
Ben & Jerry's co-founder Jerry Greenfield echos the same sentiment on the cost of labeling GMO foods. "It won't materially affect the company's profit margins."
Over 350,000 Washington residents signed a petition to get Initative 522 on the fall ballot next month. People, organizations, and businesses, including Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Nature's Path, Ben & Jerry's, Clif Bars, Amy's Kitchens, and Whole Foods, are showing their enthusiastic support for the measure.
Regardless of the results of the Washington ballot measure this fall, the desire for GMO labeling is loud and clear. Whole Foods recently announced that all products in their U.S. and Canadian stores containing genetically modified organisms must be clearly labeled within the next five years. In the announcement, Whole Foods states "The prevalence of GMOs in the US paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for grocery stores to source non-GMO choices and for consumers to choose non-GMO products. Yet we know our customers care passionately. In fact, Non-GMO Project Verfied products are among the fastest growing sellers in our non-perishable grocery category."
If you live in Washington state, it is easy to communicate your desire for GMO labeling. Just vote "yes" on Initiative 522 at the ballot box next month. If you are not a Washington state voter, you can still help.
To endorse the measure and make a contribution, visit YESon522. Read about the measure, make a contribution, and tell your friends.
Visit NonGMOProject.org and learn about the Non-GMO Project, get the facts about genetically engineered foods, and find Non-GMO choices. Support the efforts of companies that are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project Verification Program, and vote with your dollars when you shop: look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal on items you purchase.
Talk to your local grocery store, and ask them about their plans to follow Whole Food's example, demand GMO labeling on the foods that you buy. Because everyone deserves to have an informed choice about whether or not to eat genetically modified organisms.
Melissa Zimmerman, Live Superfoods
Want to learn more?
Yes on 522; http://yeson522.com
Non-GMO Month.org; http://www.nongmomonth.org/non-gmo-project/
Non-GMO Project.org; http://www.nongmoproject.org
EWG.org; Big food Lobbying Group Spends Millions to Keep Consumers in the Dark; http://www.ewg.org/release/big-food-lobbying-group-spends-millions-keep-consumers-dark-0